“If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing.
If I give away all I have, and if I deliver up my body to be burned, but have not love, I gain nothing.
Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. ” (1 Cor. 13:1-6)
Proclaiming the Word must always be accompanied with love. I can’t get around what 1 Corinthians 13:1-2 says. Angry, venomous, mean-spirited, vile preachers are not speaking as God would have them. You can mock the so-called “tone-police,” but the Word is clear—speak with the tongues of angels and men, speak with great prophetic revelation, speak with incredible faith, and even sacrifice to the point of destitution and even martyrdom—but if you don’t have love you are worse than ineffective—you are painful to your hearers and destructive to the church.
And when I say that the Word must be accompanied with love, I don’t define love as “niceness” or “without controversy” because that isn’t the way God defines love. Love is clearly spoken of in this passage in both positive and negative attributes. Love is patient and kind. Impatient pastors are noisy gongs. Unkind pastors are clanging cymbals. Their ministries will amount to nothing in the long run because they do not minister the Word as the Chief Shepherd does.
Proclaiming the Word of God with love must also leave out certain things, including envy, boasting, arrogance, rudeness, self-seeking, or anger of different kinds (irritability, resentment, rejoicing in wrongdoing).
There are some men who step into the pulpit on Sundays whose sermons are peppered throughout with a mixture of truth and these vile sins that demonstrate a lack of love. These things should not be (James 3:9-12). But there is more to this.
Our pulpit speech and our conduct should be an overflow of our daily lives, which means that we must be men of true, biblical love—both in and out of the pulpit. We cannot be unloving (as defined by Scripture) in our daily lives with those around us, and then step into a pulpit on Sunday and proclaim the truth as if our preaching were disconnected from our daily living. To live like that is plain hypocrisy.
Our daily speech and actions must be marked by biblical love, so that we will not become noisy gongs and clanging cymbals in the pulpit, with our ministry amounting to nothing. Instead, may we work at growing in biblical love so that our speech is well-seasoned with grace and our hearts truly care for those in our charge.
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